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Rajaton Sings Abba CD Cover
Image © Plastinka Records 2006

Rajaton Image © Plastinka Records 2006

More Rajaton:
Live (2003)
Nova/Boundless (2000)
Sanat (2002)
Joulu (2003)
Kevat (2005)

Rajaton Image © Plastinka Records 2006


(14 January 2007) Mama Mia, what an album! For ten years the Finnish flagship of a cappella music, vocal ensemble Rajaton, has been a success both on their home soil in Finland and abroad, in terms of constantly sold-out concerts and in terms of receiving gold and platinum awards from their record sales. This is not any wonder, especially when listening to Rajaton's unique way of doing a cappella music with great taste and taking it constantly into new levels.

The latest Rajaton album though, introduces a slight difference to the group's previous repertoire. First, it is not 100% a cappella this time. Instead, the group has an entire symphony orchestra and some additional musicians supporting them. But, this does not make the music to sound any worse, in fact this kind of music deserves a "fuller" approach just like what has been made so that the music comes really to its justice. The group's latest album is entitled Rajaton Sings Abba with Lahti Symphony Orchestra (Plastinka Records (Finland) PLACD043, 2006).

The second difference then lies in the music itself. So far Rajaton's music has been completely new pieces, many of them written particularly for them by some of Finland's leading composers among others. But, as the title of Rajaton's latest album suggests, the album contains nothing but covered music of Abba, the phenomenal Swedish winner of the Eurovision Song Contest from 1975. Making an all-covers album means always a huge risk-taking, as one would never know what the public reaction might be, but as Rajaton's past live concerts with the Abba material have all been nothing but total sell-outs both in Finland and abroad, it seems that there must have also been at least some public demand for the album to be made and released as well, as not everyone have been that lucky to get tickets for those very few concerts that have been done with this material. Obviously arranging these big concerts is logistically a huge project in itself, so that's why there have been only some performances of the Abba material so far.

As said, it is never easy to make an all-covers album, but, when listening to the outcome of the collaboration between Rajaton and the orchestra featured on this album, the world-renowned Lahti Symphony Orchestra, one cannot but admire the very seamless work they do together, as a team. Two of Rajaton's male singers have also taken part to making the arrangements of the chosen Abba songs, so the entire team of musicians do indeed know what they are doing here.

Of course such things can be preferred as "sterile, impersonal calculation", but it is never too easy to be balancing between pure copycatting and doing one's own versions of what people are used to hear. I know that there are people who do not like this kind of cover albums as they might be "too much of copycat versions" or "too far away of the originals", but, this album avoids both pitfalls very well indeed. Or, in other words, the music is both faithful to the unique, personal style of the original Abba group, but yet still Rajaton and the others have successfully added their own marks to the songs to give the listener something new to discover when listening. A beautiful example of these skills is Rajaton's rendition of "The Winner Takes It All", where the soprano Essi Wuorela really comes to her own, managing to touch the listener from deep within.

The album also includes tremendous versions of other Abba classics: "Dancing Queen," "Ciquitita," "Money, Money,Money," "One Of Us," "Voulez-Vouz," "Does Your Mother Know," "Head Over Heels," and Mamma Mia." Also listen for "Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!," "Thank You For The Music," "Fernando," and the fabulous rendition of "Waterloo" that concludes the album.

Another difficulty is usually the task of choosing the correct pieces to be covered, but Rajaton and the rest of the team have succeeded in this as well. So good has the choice been that it sounds as if the Rajaton versions were the originals! As everyone involved in the album making knew what they are doing, it is easy to notice that everyone have indeed been involved in the project with all of their hearts! Therefore, I am refusing to pinpoint any more tracks of this album in particular, as the whole album is a real tour-de-force in its originalness, inventiveness and cohesiveness.

And, therefore, it is not a wonder that even this Rajaton album went gold (with over 15,000 copies sold) just less than two weeks after its release, and received the platinum award (with over 30,000 copies sold) just before Christmas 2006, only a bit more than one month after its release here in Finland. So, in case you discover the album being for sale or the group having an Abba performance with Lahti Symphony Orchestra near you, just "carpe diem" (seize the moment) and give yourself a real musical treat, because these masterpieces are definitely not to be missed!--Suvi Kaikkonen in Oulu Finland and Russ Elliot in New York

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